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The Wandering Hearts Live at Islington Assembly Hall, London ***** – Live Review

Geographically it’s not far from St Pancras Old Church to Islington Assembly Hall, a nice mile and a half stroll via the Regent’s Canal Towpath. Musically the two are poles apart.

The Wandering Hearts played their first headline showcase at the St Pancras Old Church just over 18 months ago. For many acts that venue is the pinnacle of their career, but for the Hearts it was the springboard to the forefront of the UK’s Americana scene.

From an audience of 80 of mainly friends, family and record industry execs to a sold-out Islington Assembly Hall of 800. From a 40-minute set to friends and family to a set double that with a thunderous reception. From a tentative walk on stage supporting Marty Stuart a year ago to handling an electrical malfunction midset without dropping a beat. St Pancras to Islington via Nashville’s Grand Ole Opry and Ryman, several festivals and a Bob Harris Emerging Artist UK Americana award. Consider the Wandering Hearts emerged.

The Wandering Hearts are AJ Dean and Tim Prottey-Jones on vocals and guitar, with Chess Whiffin on vocals and mandolin and Tara Wilcox on vocals. The four were joined by their regular bassist Lee Campbell and new addition Siân on drums. Tim appears to have lost his mini-bass drum.

They started with the foot-stomping Biting Through The Wires. The group’s trademark harmonies stronger than ever. The sound is slightly heavier with the addition of the drums. AJ took the lion’s share of vocal duties, Tara and Chess combined beautifully as ever and Tim lead the group musically from the guitar. Often all four were singing, a wondrous sound.

In a 75-minute set the band played the whole of their debut album Wild Silence, together with two tracks from the album’s deluxe edition due next February, Run (one of the first songs they wrote together) and ‘Till I Die. Thrown in was The Wonder Of You, made famous by Elvis Presley, perhaps a surprising song choice until you realise that AJ Dean is a massive Elvis fan as he revealed in a previous BOON interview.

Standout tracks were the driving Rattle, the beautiful Burning Bridges with the four crowded round one mic, previously this has been unamplified (many in the audience knew what was going to happen and were quietening any others talking before the start of the track), Fire And Water and Devil to finish on a high.

The Wandering Hearts have not only emerged. They have emerged victorious.

Words and Live photos by Chaz Brooks

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